Friday, January 31, 2020

Fresh Start Field Guide: 31 Simple Steps for Improving Simply

Sometimes I get weary of the current terminology of success. Do we need to crush our goals, attack the new year, kill Monday? At the beginning of a new year and a new decade, we all hope to be our best selves but some of us don't need or want the aggressive style of success promoted in business magazines or under #bossbabes on Instagram.

Does everything we love to do need to be a side hustle? If you need to explore this idea read The Value of Living a Creative Life Part 1 and Part 2. 

There's more than one definition of success and your version is going to have a lot to do with your personal energy, goals, and priorities. In this series, I'm offering a way to ease into a new year or new season of life with simple activities and quiet ways to contemplate what changes you need to make to live your optimized life your way.

Read Building Your Fresh Start Tool Kit for a helpful list of things to use along the way

Remember, there is no being behind. There is only where you are now. You can do this in any order in any month for a gentle reboot when feeling overwhelmed or out of sorts. 

1. How to do a Year-End Retrospective

2. What if You Don't Know What You Want? 

3. Start Journaling: Tips and Tricks for the Reluctant Writer

4. Setting an Intention for the Day

5. Using a Vision Board to Achieve Clarity

6. Building Your Fresh Start Tool Kit

7. Coping With FOMO

8. Create Before You Consume

9. Breaking Our Addiction to Busy

10. 5 Creativity Boosts to Try This Weekend

11. Empty Something

12. Fill Something

13. Building Your Morning Routine

14. Mastering Your Morning Mindset

15. How to Use Reframing to Control Negative Thoughts

16. Creating a Bedtime Routine

17. Mastering Your Evening Mindset

18. Tips for Coping with January

19. Take 5 Outside

20. Defining Personal Success

21. News Free Day

22. Getting to Know Yourself

23. Anti-Procrastination Day

24. Use Something Up

25. Shop Your Closet

26. Create a Go-To

27. 10 Minute Cleaning Hack

28. Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

29. 5 First Steps

30. God is Proud of You

31. Fresh Start Field Guide

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Here's Why God is Proud of You

Several years ago I was going through a very hard time. Maybe you've been there too. When you wonder what the point is of trying so hard. Sitting in a place of darkness wondering if God has forgotten you, or worse abandoned you. I was at a silent Catholic retreat for a weekend because a friend had invited me, and one of the books I'd taken to read was Phillip Yancey's Disappointment With God. I was reading it halfheartedly practically daring God to show me that I wasn't wrong about Him when I read this passage. 

"By focusing myopically on what we want God to do on our behalf, we may miss the significance of what he has already done."

Let that sink in.

On the second day after lunch, I returned to my room. I got out the list of verses the nun leading the retreat had given us. I was familiar with them. "Nothing new here." I thought to myself. Wanting to get the most out of the experience however, I opened the Bible in my room and diligently looked up each one. Nothing much jumped out except that part in Psalm 139 about God marking my travels. Was he marking a map with pins? I have some great travel pics pinned on Pinterest. I haven't been on Pinterest this week. I shuffled my papers to look for "How to Deal with Distractions in Prayer."

 I went on to the next verse. Psalm 139:5, "You rest your hand upon me."

An image of me standing next to my father on a gravel driveway under a hot summer sun, flooded my mind. He rested his hand on top of my head, then on my shoulder. I thought of the thousands of times I had done that to my own children. I began to think about the meaning of that.

Focus on that for a moment. You are standing with your child having a conversation with another adult and you rest your hand on the shoulder of your son, or the head of your daughter. What does that mean? Why do parents do that?

Because you are proud of them.

Could God be proud of me? Somehow that seemed a foreign concept. Perhaps a result of one too many verses of some hymn relating me to a worm when I was a child. I let that thought come around again. Is God proud of me? If he is it certainly cannot be because of anything I've achieved, or for some glowing example, I've been. Maybe he was saying he was proud of me because I try so hard. Where would the grace be in that? But as I thought about that in relation to my own children, I realized that I didn't love them more when they tried really hard. I kept following that line of thought. Why are parents proud of their children when they are so small they haven't accomplished anything yet? We are incredibly proud of babies! Why?

Because they are ours. Because they belong to us.

This is where the tears began to flow.

I could understand that. I could rest in that. So can you. That God is proud of me just because I belong to him. Proud of you because you do. He sees how hard you are struggling. He knows you are hurt and disappointed. He knows you are tired. He knows you are wondering if you are good enough. But he wants you to know he is resting his hand on you, proud father that he is.

See what kind of love the Father has given us that we should be called the children of God, and so we are... 1 John 3:1

And I shall be a father to you and you will be my sons and daughters says the Lord Almighty.  2 Corinthians 6:18

So at the end of January when most people are already disappointed in themselves for not keep ing all the resolutions they made and for breaking more promises to themselves yet again, I say, take heart. If you followed along with this little challenge you have some small wins and easy victories for building on. And if you didn't do anything you're proud of, remember that you don't have to accomplish anything for God to think you are pretty awesome.

Take that with you into the rest of your year. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

5 Steps For Starting Anything

Let's start to wind down our Gentle January with five important first steps to accomplishing anything. Here we go.

1. Don't get overwhelmed by the enormity of the thing you are trying to accomplish, or learn about, or recover from. In the book, the $100 Start-Up, several of the people interviewed said if they had known what all was required to start a business they wouldn't have done it. At the outset sometimes it's best to keep the final goal in mind and not get bogged down in the how-to details. 

2. Stop waiting until you have all the information. This one can be paralyzing because when will that be? Never, that's when. Analyzing things to death is a form of resistance. If you don't know about resistance, read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. You want to have a reasonable amount of information and be able to make informed decisions. But beware information gathering becoming a way of never taking action. You don't need that much action to actually start moving in the right direction.  

 3. Start. Take actions today that will move you toward your goal. Pick up the phone. Send in the form. Shoot that person the email. Drink the water. Buy the running shoes. Throw out the junk food. Start the book or the blog. Open the account. Clean out the junk drawer. Post your art on Instagram. Buy the supplies. Make the thing. 

If you are struggling with creativity read this. 

4. Finish. In Elizabeth Gilbert's latest book, Big Magic she says "Done is better than good" and reminds us that the world doesn't really need one more half-finished manuscript in the bottom of a drawer somewhere. It might be that the thing you need to do has been started and abandoned for some reason. Pick it up again. Dust it off. Finish it. If that's too ambitious for where you are right now, then take actions 1-3 to move in the direction of your finish line. 

5. Stop being so afraid all the time. This is the real thing, isn't it? So much of it comes down to fear. What will people think? What if it doesn't work? What if I fail? What if everyone finds out I'm a fraud? What if I look silly? What if it changes friendships? Or your marriage? And perhaps the scariest thing of all--what if I succeed? What if? What if? What if?


 If we are going to ask that question, let's at least spin it in our favor.

What if it works? What if you find a strong toned body under those extra pounds? What if you find your life's work? Or passion? Or the love of your life? What if you surprise everyone by how fabulous you are? What if you surprise yourself? What if you find out there is power in being vulnerable? What if you become healthier than ever? What if your courage inspires someone else? 

What if?

If fear is a major issue for you then the book, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers might be helpful.

Want real change in your life that you can keep going over the months and years? These 5 things are necessary whether you are out to improve your health, renew your mind, or deepen your spiritual life. 

And if you want to write the great American novel or take up kickboxing, well, they work for that too.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Build Your Tribe

As we ease ourselves into the new year in this gentlest of Januaries let's talk about our social connections. Having a circle of friends is one of the main ways we can stave off depression and angst while improving our disposition and overall health. 

Much has been written about the harmful effects of social isolation, but today we are focusing on the how and not so much the why. Specifically, how does our behavior influence our friendships or lack of them and how does our social circle influence us. 

Your vibe attracts your tribe. Guess what. You are going to attract the kind of energy and attitudes that you put out. Or as our grandmothers would have said, birds of a feather flock together. Have you ever noticed that the gossips, Debbie downers, and Eyores seem to find each other? Meanwhile, the folks who cheer each other on and raise each other up have also gravitated into a group. 

Very simply, you are likely to draw to you people who are attracted to your words, actions, and attitudes. And it works in the reverse as well. It's said that you are an average of the five people you spend the most time with. 

Think about your friends and let that sink in. 

Our environments are powerful and that includes the people in them. So choose your associations wisely. Is there someone who you notice makes you feel worse after spending time with them? You might want to find ways to limit those interactions. Meanwhile schedule time with people who are uplifting and encouraging. And make sure to foster freindships with people whose qualities you admire. 

Monday, January 27, 2020

10 Minute Cleaning Hack

How many times have you looked around at all that needed to be done, felt overwhelmed, grabbed the remote and headed to Netflix? Sometimes it just seems like we don't have the time or energy to clean up the kitchen or take a walk.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret hack I started using when my kids were young and I still use to trick myself into doing work when I feel like I don't have it in me.

Today we are playing Beat the Clock.

Set your kitchen timer for 10 minutes.

Why not the timer on your phone, you ask? Because we all know that 45 minutes later we'll be looking for properties for sale on Lake Como or watching Australian news bloopers. Picking up your phone is too risky. Kitchen timers only.

Start your timer and run around as fast as you can doing whatever you can see the needs to be done. Did you realize it only takes about 3 minutes to unload the dishwasher? Toss out papers, Swiffer up the dog hair, wipe down the sink, clean the toilet, fill the dog's water bowl, put away anything, not in its place. Hang up your coat, put the shoes you kicked off in the entryway back where they go.

Hurry! When the timer goes off you're done.

Now stop.

Two things have happened: You feel energized and you made some progress. Now you can either sit down and read a book or set your timer again. Knowing there's a ticking clock keeps us focused in a way that an open-ended task does not.

This is a tool for cleaning up your physical space. This is not the time to phone the gas company about your bill or work on your vision board.

We overestimate how long it takes to accomplish the little daily tasks we don't like. Using this trick will show you just how little time some of them take and the payoff for having them done is a feeling of being in control of your surroundings. It's an added bonus that you 're moving as fast as you can.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Create a Go-To

Decision fatigue is a thing. Your brain only has so much decision making power at the start of the day so things you can put on autopilot can help you save some of that energy for more important stuff that comes up. Trying to pull together an outfit when you're running late or whip up a new meal after a tough day at work can be too much. I know for me in the late afternoon or evening it can feel like my brain has shut down while I'm standing in front of the pantry because I didn't have a plan.

Spend some time today choosing things to help you when you don't have the time or bandwith to make new choices. Pull together new outfits and experiment with meals when you have time for it to be fun and you can enjoy being creative. Then you'll have those backups in your hip pocket when you just can't even with all the things.

Have a go-to:

 Outfit: It should be comfortable and you should feel good in it.

Dinner: It should have no more than 5 ingredients that you always have on hand and should take about 30 minutes.

Response: If you are going through a transition or have something about your life that people always ask about like when are you having a baby, what are you going to do with that major, or how is she handling that diagnosis, come up with a standard response for everyone who asks. That way you don't get caught off guard or say something you regret because you were thinking on your feet. 

Elevator pitch: Your quick and dirty answer when someone asks you what you do, what your goals are or what you are creating.

Gift: That one thing from your favorite shop that is always a hit. Bonus points if they gift wrap!

I'll bet you can come up with some other useful ones!

Remember, everything we are doing this month is about making small changes that can make our lives easier, prevent overwhelm, and allow us to function with less stress.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Shop Your Closet

Today's assignment as we ease into the new year is to create a new outfit from something you already own.

Most of us wear twenty percent of what we own eighty percent of the time. Today go through your clothes and accessories and put together something you haven't paired before.

Do you always wear the same cardigan with the same blouse? Is there anything else it would go with? Is that one skirt really the only thing that jacket would go with? Don't forget to try different jewelry or a scarf!

Mix it up and make something fresh. You don't even have to wear it today! This is just an exercise in using what we already have (see yesterday's post) and getting out of our clothing rut.

You are giving yourself one more option without leaving the house or spending any money.

And of course, feel free to do some gentle purging as you come across things you know you won't wear in the future. Don't take out more things than you could put away in 10 minutes. We aren't trying to create a stressful activity but make one new outfit. 

Friday, January 24, 2020

Use Something Up

We aren't going to get overwhelmed by trying to organize our entire house or vow not to spend any money this year. We are going to do this one simple step today and that's enough. Sometimes there are little things that cause us a small amount of irritation with ourselves. Having a lot of half-used products is one of those things. It also creates extra clutter and in the case of food causes waste because we are probably going to throw out the stale crackers or chips.

How many open bottles of shampoo, conditioner, moisturizers, and lotions are in your bathroom? How many open boxes of crackers or bags of chips are in your pantry? What's your freezer situation?

Do you have DIY products for projects you haven't gotten to?

Let's look at something else. Did you get something for Christmas that you are saving? Do you have good china or crystal collecting dust? Is there anything anywhere in your closet with a tag still on it?

Today use something up. Use up the dregs of the shampoo bottle. If you bought a shampoo you didn't like use it to clean the toilet. Soap is soap. Disappointed in a conditioner? Skip buying shaving cream and use it to shave your legs. Use the fancy bath products you got as a gift. I've had to deal with closing up the homes of 3 female relatives after their deaths and it's a sad thing to see expensive soap and bath powders that are still in the packaging.

If you enjoy going to estate sales you have likely seen just how many beautiful things aren't claimed by family members. So here's the question...

What are you saving it for? The person who gave it to you meant for it to be used. 

Open your freezer today and plan a meal from something that's been in there a while. If the crackers are beyond saving feed them to the birds.

Use the good china tonight for that creative freezer meal you're pulling together. Your kids probably aren't going to want it so if washing up is what's keeping you from using it, got ahead and stick it in the dishwasher. It's unlikely anyone will care. If you have beautiful serving pieces that you know aren't going to be used for food, give them a new life. A platter can hold your jewelry. Put that beautiful covered dish on the mantle and tuck notecards inside.

If you just know you are never going to use a dozen finger bowls, stick a fancy bar of soap inside and tie it up with a ribbon as a gift. Let's use our imaginations as we use things up.

While we're at it let's challenge ourselves not to buy any products that we already own in any form until we use up what we have.

Look at us being resourceful and saving money.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Declare today Anti-Procrastination Day

Need a happiness boost? There's something you can do today to get it. One of the things that can build anxiety is having a lot of tasks we should get to but we keep putting off. Most people struggle with this and it's one of the hardest things to overcome. We all know how good we feel when we finally accomplish the thing we've been delaying, but every time it seems to be a battle against our inner resistance.

Think back to a time when you put something off because you imagined it to be difficult and time-consuming and then it was quickly dealt with.

"If I'd known it would be so easy I'd have done it sooner!" We say afterward. 

I'm speaking to myself because I need to change phone plans but in my mind, I have built up this huge difficult set of complications that are keeping me from taking action. Meanwhile, a few weeks ago I got my Real ID when I renewed my drivers' license and it felt so good walking out of the DMV having it finished. I say this even though the process was almost as time-consuming and frustrating as I'd imagined. 

So let's do something today we've been postponing for a while. Or at least make a plan and decide when we'll get it done. If you need to go to the DMV the best days are Tuesdays and Wednesdays that are not in the same week as a holiday. And study the website to make sure you take all the necessary documentation. 

Other things you might do are buy a 2020 planner, clean out some space that's bothering you, get the oil changed in your car, call a repairman about something around the house, RSVP to an invitation, buy a gift, Decide what to do about a big problem and take action, have that talk with your boss, take all those Amazon boxes to recycling, renew your passport...

As you can see your possibilities are endless. Think how great it's going to be to have it finished!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Getting to Know Yourself

What state should you be living in? Which Disney Princess are you? What kind of cheese are you? The internet is rife with fun and hilarious quizzes. But there are actually a few quizzes worth taking that can help you understand yourself and why you are the way you are.

While we're easing into the new year and decade and we think very gently about our goals or what we hope to accomplish let's take a day to get to know ourselves. Understanding how we work best and most effectively, interact with others, and some of our natural bents and tendencies can help us make better choices.

So here are some of the most reliable quizzes for getting to know some things about yourself that might be useful. It can also help us to understand why others are the way they are. The more insight we can gain the kinder we can be to ourselves and give grace to others.

Myers Briggs Type Indicator  This is the one you are probably the most familiar with. It's been around the longest and is used by lots of schools and businesses.

The Big 5 (OCEAN) Purports to be even more science-based that MB. Ranks you on the 5 big personality indicators.

Enneagram The new kid on the block and the most popular personality test right now. You need to take this one just so you know what everyone is talking about.

The 4 Tendencies Quiz This one has to do with how do we get ourselves to do what we want or habit change. Based on the science and research of Gretchen Rubin it's helpful when trying to change our behavior and great for helping us understand others.

Take some time out today and take one or all of these. It's fun to get your family members or at least your spouse to take them. Fostering understanding is always a good thing.

In case you are wondering,

According to MB I am an INFJ. 

On the Big 5 I'm:

 high open
 high conscientious
 high extroversion
 highly agreeable
 low neurotic

On the Enneagram I'm a

My tendency is Questioner. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A News Free Sunday

I've got news for you. The news might be bad for you. For some people or during certain events or news cycles too much information might actually be harmful. In my former life I was a complete news junkie and liked to consider myself super informed about what was going on in the world. 

 Choosing not to internalize what's happening doesn't mean you are uninformed or unthinking. It means that you are thinking rationally about what you have control over (your thoughts, actions, and words) and what you don't (the thoughts, actions, and words of others). 

Your assignment for today is to turn it all off. Just for today skip the news. Not just on TV but on radio and social media. If you have news notifications on your phone turn them off today.

I know it's hard to find the right balance but experiment to find the level of informed for you. And ask yourself, if you didn't know anything about what was happening would it actually make any difference? We aren't saying we live in a bubble and don't care about what's going on. We are only playing around with the amount of information necessary to be responsible citizens and members of society. 

How much information do you need to be an informed voter, for instance? How much of the news that you are seeing is new information or just the same information rehashed? Come to terms with the fact that you aren't ever going to have all the information. The people making the decisions don't even have all the information. 

So take Sunday as a God prescribed day of rest and let the anxiety of information overload go. 

Monday, January 20, 2020

Defining Success

In our culture, we equate success with things like private jets, expensive cars, and jewelry. If that's your jam then you do you, girl.

But what if your idea of success is bringing clean water to a village in Africa, teaching a child to read, or growing food in your garden to donate to a food bank? Then that's success. Don't let the people around you, or the media, or a memory of your high school guidance counselor define what you think it means to live a purposeful life. 

One helpful exercise is to sit down with a piece of paper and write out what your perfect life would look like in every detail. How do you wake up? Where do you live? How do you spend your time? Who are you helping? What do you look like? Where are you going? Who are you seeing? Writing out your ideal life allows you to really break down what your personal definition of winning at life is.

You get to define what success means for you. Here are some examples of non-material things that you may use to define success:

  • an in-depth spiritual practice
  • wellness
  • getting fit
  • building healthy habits
  • reading more
  • building a strong marriage
  • better parenting practices
  • making new friends 
  • strengthening existing friendships
  • journaling
  • building a tribe of creative friends
  • Volunteering
  • Inspiring others

There's nothing wrong with leading a quiet life and pursuing the things that make you happy. There's a reason there's a slow living movement! I don't know why anyone would want to be famous or do anything that involves going to meetings or having every day scheduled. But perhaps you imagine being busy and sought after, running a company, or running for office.

Perhaps you are further along in life and have already attained success in parenting or your career and now you can imagine a shift. Something different. A fresh start. 

Success is a very personal thing. Today take a few minutes to sit down and actually write what you imagine your ideal perfect successful day.

Now you have an idea where you are trying to get to. That makes planning the journey a lot easier, don't you think? 

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Go Outside for 5 Intentional Minutes

Today's assignment is to go outdoors for five minutes and look around. Y'all. When I say we're easing into the new year and having a gentle January, I'm not kidding.

Why outside? Because there are proven physical and mental health benefits of being in nature.

Multiple studies show that walking, hiking, camping and the like are fantastic ways to fight depression but depending on where you live all of that might be a lot to ask in the dead of winter. So what do I want you to do?

Go outside and observe. You may feel like winter doesn't have anything beautiful to look at. It's a time when a lot of us are just longing for spring with its flowering branches and fancy blossoms and its bustling garden centers. But every season has its own beauty.

Here are some suggestions: 

A winter sunrise.

The lines of a bare tree.

A dark starry sky.

The single frost-covered branch of an evergreen.

The wondrous promise of an acorn.

The intricacy of a pine cone.

A bird on a branch.

The springy green of boxwood.

Give yourself a few minutes away from screens and step out of the house. Take a moment to observe some simple natural thing. Breathe in the cool air you'll be wishing for come July. Let it fill your lungs and say a little prayer of gratitude that there is always beauty to be found by those who look for it.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Coping Skills For Mid-Winter

January has always been one of my favorite months. There is something beautiful about the quiet emptiness between the holidays and spring. I love blank calendars and early darkness and soup. So much soup.

But it can be hard of you suffer from seasonal depression or dread the holiday bills coming in the mail. 

Let's put January in some context.

Like most gardeners and beekeepers I am all about rhythms, seasons, and cycles. In the natural world, we see time for growth, fullness, waning, and loss, and emptiness. 

Our ancestors, who lived closer to and worked with nature, were better equipped in their understanding of the world's natural phase. In our hyper-connected, tech-saturated lives it's all about constant growth and increased numbers whether that's sales or likes on Instagram. We live in a world where loss, pulling back, emptiness, and rest are not only not considered things to be desired but in many cases are demonized.

I have a serious problem with anyone who demonizes rest. 

It is in this frame of mind that we meet January. January with its empty squares on the calendar and early darkness. Add to that the real issues of seasonal depression and lack of vitamin D from sunlight and many people are keen for winter to be over as soon as possible.

So what can we do if this is where we find ourselves on long dark nights and days of perpetual gloom?

Let's see January, or winter if you want to think of it in those terms, as a time for God appointed rest and planning. If you have kids at home August through Christmas were probably a mad rush of school supplies, Halloween costume dilemmas, and Christmas craziness. In the spring, all the sports will start along with the monster of standardized testing and the end of the school year. But right now, in the bleak mid-winter, when less is expected, you can take some time for yourself.

Embrace it.

Now is the perfect time to light a candle and plan your summer garden. Schedule a massage or plan a spa night at home. Read that book you meant to get to last year. Write a letter to a friend. Sit quietly and contemplate the outline of a bare tree. Work a puzzle. Watch birds. Imagine hibernating animals cozy in their winter dens. How can you not love winter if you picture a chipmunk asleep amid the pile of acorns she collected last fall? Stay in your pajamas all day on Saturday. Do nothing, without guilt. You are restoring yourself and gathering energy for spring like a tulip bulb.

Most of all, remember, it's a season. The furious rush of spring is coming! Planting, growing, Easter, Mother's Day, long lines at the garden center, sports, weddings, graduations--it's all on the way. So don't discount your restful January or despise your quiet winter.

Accept the gift of time for renewal. 

Our bodies and minds are meant to acknowledge seasons, both in nature and in life. If you haven't ever thought about the ebb and flow of life I hope this helps you make it to those first daffodil blossoms!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Mastering Your Evening Mindset

Two of the most common resolutions every year are losing weight and/or getting fit. We all focus a tremendous amount of time and money on diet and exercise but we consistently neglect a key piece of the health puzzle, sleep.  

Two words: Circadian Rhythm.

One thing that happens is that we can feel so tired that we just keep sitting in front of the TV or computer because we feel too tired to get up and do our evening bedtime routine. Meanwhile, we only get more exhausted by the minute and bedtime is getting pushed further and further back costing us precious sleep time. If this is you set a timer on your phone to chime one hour before you want to go to bed. It's a helpful prompt to remind you that in about 20 minutes you could be ready for bed.

 We actually have a limited amount of decision making capability for the entire day. By the time bedtime rolls around your mind and energy are depleted. That's why it's so important to have a bedtime routine in order. You will literally be able to move through it and get everything done without making any decisions. I've already done the work for you. Read Building Your Bedtime Routine for your basic bedtime routine checklist

Here are some helpful tips. 

No screen time in bed. Not even the Kindle. Light from all our devices signals to our brains we should stay awake.  Bedtime means reading a physical book and that the TV, phone, and laptop are banished to the den, dining room, and studio.

No news before bed. Just no. 10:00 news. Worst idea ever. 

End your day on a positive note. Before turning out the light you might want to jot down notes for things to do tomorrow to clear your mind, journal about your day (also clears the mind) or write in your gratitude journal. 

Use a diffuser with lavender next to the bed and a noise app or machine. When traveling I have a white noise app on my phone. Drowning out random noise is very helpful and lavender is a calming fragrance.

Don't wait until you feel tired and/or sleepy to go to bed. Bedtime is the same regardless of how you feel. This is the main mistake most adults make, they don't see the need to go to bed until they feel like it. An overactive overstimulated mind at the computer or watching TV is a terrible barometer of how much sleep the body needs.

Think of bedtime routine as pampering and self-care.

Don't keep any business-y type things in the bedroom. That's what the office and a desk are for. Anything that looks like it might promote over-thinking or worry is banished. Do all work someplace else. Who wants the energy of unpaid bills in the bedroom? 

 Unless you're sick the bed is only for a couple of things and one of them is sleep. We don't have a TV in the bedroom. Our brains need to associate going to bed with being in a mindset for sleep. 

 If you wake up and can't go back to sleep within 20 minutes get up, get some water, maybe read a bit, then go back to bed. You might also try prayer, meditation, and counting your blessings. 

If you are feeling sick, run-down, and exhausted changing your sleep routine is a good place to begin getting yourself to a healthier state.

If you only make one resolution this year, creating and maintaining a healthy sleep pattern is going to do the most good in every other area of your life. 

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Building Your Bedtime Routine

Bedtime is an event when you are a child or a parent of small children. After dinner there is a bath, cozy clean pajamas, reading a book with Mom or Dad. It's a routine and everyone knows what to expect every night. It's so special that it is a key scene in TV shows and movies regarding families. You probably have your own special memories from your own childhood or from your child's.

But something happens as we get older. At some point, we throw out the comforting ritual. We watch late-night television or prowl Facebook until we nearly pass out from exhaustion and then fall into bed. As a nation, we complain about our inability to sleep or wear our lack of sleep as a badge of honor.

Let's make being tucked in at night a grown-up thing. If you were a child you remember how to do this, right? And if you have raised kids of your own, you just have no excuse not to be treating yourself to a goodnight ritual.

Your inner child is going to revolt! "But I wanna stay up and stalk Harry and Meghan on social media!" 

To which you will reply "I know. But whenever you don't get to bed on time you feel out of sorts the next day and it's hard to focus at work. So, off to bed."

If it takes treating yourself like a toddler to create better habits that's okay. 

You might want to refer back to your Fresh Start Tool Kit

Tucking yourself in: 

Step 1. Set a bedtime and stick with it. No matter how much your inner toddler whines to stay up late to see George Clooney on Jimmy Kimmel, you are going to stand strong. It's okay to give yourself a window: my bedtime is between ten and ten-thirty. Choose the right time for you. I'm a lark so my time is pretty early. If you are an owl just make sure to give yourself 8 hours before the alarm goes off the next morning.

Step 2. If you are a nighttime shower person do that. If you are a morning shower person, wash your face and moisturize. I brush my teeth immediately after dinner in order to signal to my brain we're done eating for the day. We are learning more about the benefits of intermittent fasting, so the earlier the better. 

Step 3. Put on your favorite cozy pajamas.

Step 4. Dim the lights around the house.

Step 5. If you are having alcohol in the evening keep it earlier, closer to dinnertime. It can interfere with sleep in the early morning hours. For bedtime, drinks stick to decaf tea or water or any of the teas that promote sleep.

Step 6. Turn off all the screens. This is where your inner tween will start wailing but remember, you are the adult now. Have a little self-control. No screens the last 20 minutes before you actually get in bed. It should really be an hour but let's be realistic. 

Step 7. A bedtime story! Yay! It's the best part and you can choose whatever you want. But be careful. I've been reading War and Peace for eleven years or something. By the time I get to this point my brain is thinking "Time to go to sleep!" This isn't the time for a page-turner.  Classics and personal development work nicely. Just like we primed our brain for our day, now we are priming it for sleep. You'll want to end the day on a good note.

Step 8. Prayers. Meditations. Affirmations. Gratitude. Reflections on the day. 

A note about sleep aids: I take Melatonin about an hour before I climb into bed. Be careful with things like certain allergy meds that have been linked to dementia as well as anything that requires a prescription. Like a lot of things in life, the simplest solution is the best one. We don't want to mess around too much with our body's natural ability to do its job. 


Okay, I know there's more to it because your mom isn't fixing the coffee pot for you and your dad isn't going around locking all the doors. You might need to let the animals out one last time, charge your phone, or pick out clothes for tomorrow.

Work all of those things in and around your bedtime routine as it works for you. I make the coffee after dinner if I remember but more often it's in there somewhere between a glass of water and wrangling my testy inner tween. But the overall process happens every night. I'm sure it does for you too your version just might need a little you-centric tweaking to make the most of it.

But what about the weekend?

Bad news. Your body doesn't know it's Friday night. So while you might veer off schedule occasionally for big events or special nights out, sticking as closely as you can to a regular plan is going to improve your sleep.  Perfectly adhering to a system isn't our goal. Make sure that you are caring for yourself with kindness and love most of the time. That means giving your body plenty of rest. Guilt-free. 

Nighty-night y'all.